It’s the Heart of the NFL Offseason, and Anthony Lynn Is Making the Most of It

It’s the Heart of the NFL Offseason, and Anthony Lynn Is Making the Most of It

The Chargers’ head coach spent his time away from the field in Tanzania, where he helped open a school in a rural part of the country. Lynn talks about what he learned from his experience in Africa, and some of the lessons he hopes to bring back to his players in Los Angeles. Also, four lingering offseason storylines, the latest developments for the NFL in London, the story of an Italian football player and much more.
July 08, 2019

Anthony Lynn stood at the back of a primary school classroom last week, 10 time zones and nearly 10,000 miles away from Los Angeles. Dozens of children, who are part of the Maasai tribe in east Africa, filled the room in front of him, seated at wooden desks and wearing new green, yellow and blue-colored school uniforms. They clapped their hands and performed a song in their language, as a thank you to their visitors.

“Just being in the classroom with the kids was the best part of the trip,” Lynn says, over the phone from Tanzania. “These kids are so appreciative and positive. Their circumstances are not all that great, but they are finding ways to thrive.”

The week of July 4 is the quietest one in the NFL calendar, when coaches, players and team employees scatter for down time before training camps open and the next season is afoot. But this week’s MMQB begins in another part of the world. Instead of vacation, the Chargers head coach spent his summer break in a way that he hopes will have a long-lasting impact: Opening a school in northern Tanzania that he and his wife, NBC New York news anchor Stacey Bell Lynn, helped make a reality.

When Lynn was a player on the Broncos’ back-to-back Super Bowl teams in the 90s, he remembers teammate Terrell Davis returning from a trip to Africa and describing the impact it had on him—but this would be Lynn’s first visit to the continent. He knew he’d have plenty of time on his flights, a 12.5-hour haul from New York to Dubai followed by a seven-hour connection to the Kilimanjaro airport, to prepare for the days ahead. But before leaving the United States nine days ago, the last itinerary Lynn had looked at was for the Chargers’ training camp and practice schedule. He wasn’t sure what to expect, beyond the instructions to pack light and avoid the dark blue and black clothing that can attract certain insects.

Lenjani is a rural community in the Maasai region of Tanzania, a three-hour drive southeast of the city of Arusha. There, at a new one-story school with gray walls and a red roof, about 300 boys and girls in grades K-3 will start classes this week, the first opportunity to go to school for many of these children. They’ll eat two protein-rich meals per day in a dining hall dedicated to the lead donor that helped make the construction of this school possible: the Lynn Family Foundation.

“We are not here to change their culture or anything like that,” Lynn says. “These are strong people, with a lot of qualities I wish I saw more of. They don’t take anything for granted, and they have to really work hard to get what they want out of life. If you add education to that, they have a chance to do something really special.”

Anthony Lynn (left, standing), Stacey Lynn, Danielle Lynn and D’Anton Lynn stand in a classroom of the school.

Courtesy of Stacey Lynn

The chance to provide these kids an education was the reason the Lynns gave their time and a significant personal donation to this project, spearheaded by their friend and former neighbor, Ravi Reddy. They met Reddy several years ago living in Long Island City in Queens, N.Y., while Lynn was an assistant coach for the New York Jets. Reddy, a former linebacker for the University of Texas, had worked on humanitarian projects in different countries around the world before starting his own non-profit, Privilege 2 Serve. Three years ago, Reddy teamed up with Africa’s Promise Village, an organization working to empower vulnerable communities in Tanzania through education, with the goal of building a school.

The Maasai people, who live in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, follow a traditional lifestyle centered on herding goats and cattle. Recently the hotter weather and unpredictable rain as a result of climate change, as well as the loss of land to national parks and reserves, have presented new challenges to sustaining a way of life that has remained unchanged for centuries. The construction of this school in Lenjani, on 50 acres of land secured through an agreement with the Maasai, aims to change the equation by offering kids a path forward through education that was not previously available in this rural area.

“These kids were getting pushed into the workforce as early as possible, growing up without education at all,” Lynn says. “It was sad, because where do your hopes and dreams come from if you don’t have that? How do you know if you like science until you take a science class? When I learned about the situation, I felt like I had to get involved.”

The Lynns traveled to Tanzania with Reddy and his wife, Robyn, and Lynn’s two children, D’Anton, an assistant secondary coach for the Texans, and Danielle, who works in health administration. With the help of the Lynns’ contribution, construction on the school began last year. And during the break in the NFL calendar, Lynn had the chance to help open the school and see firsthand the community it will serve. They originally planned to stay in tents during this portion of their eight-day trip, but for security reasons, stayed in old government lodging a short distance away from Lenjani.

Lynn met with the four teachers they hired, who speak both Maasai and English, and sat down with local leaders, including the Lenjani chief. They plan to expand the school so they can serve more students, adding a middle school and high school—“We are not done,” Lynn says—but that requires buy-in from the local community, since older kids are counted on to shepherd cattle and contribute to the agricultural lifestyle. Lynn visited parents in their homes, explaining through a translator the ways that their children will be able to contribute to their community if they receive an education. They also worked on logistics like helping kids get into the routine of going to school and setting up transportation, which will include donkeys and tractors pulling carts. School begins at 10 a.m. each day, Reddy says, because the lions feed from 6 to 9 a.m. “These are things I never would have known if I didn’t come over here,” Lynn says.

Before they arrived in Lenjani, they spent half a day at the Intel School boarding school that serves orphaned and disadvantaged kids in Arusha. It's been open for nearly 20 years, and has been something of a blueprint for how to run a successful school in Tanzania, sharing curriculum ideas and operational advice. The Intel School students have mastered three languages, and Lynn stopped by a science class where a primary student was called upon to explain to the visitors that they were learning about the different systems of the human body.

Toward the end of their trip, they headed to a safari lodge in the Serengeti, where they met a hotel employee who is a member of the Maasai tribe. Lynn says she told them she didn’t have the chance to attend school until she was 11, when a group like theirs came in and built a school near her village. Now an adult, she’s working at the hotel and trying to save enough money to go to college.

“She told us she wants to go back and pay it forward. That’s what we want,” Lynn says. “You know, you go somewhere, and you expect to help people and have an impact, and they end up having an impact on you. Their resiliency, their toughness, their attitude, their smiles. You see it and experience it, and it makes you appreciate what you really have.”

Courtesy of Ravi Reddy

The school in Lenjani is one of several initiatives supported by the Lynn Family Foundation, which the Lynns created earlier this year to expand their charitable work. The foundation launched with a golf outing in Texas last month (the Chargers were presenting sponsors), which went toward supporting Young Warriors, a mentoring program for fatherless boys that is expanding to Dallas, and Hugs Café, an organization based in Lynn’s hometown of McKinney, Texas, which trains and employs adults with special needs. (Lynn’s niece, Marty, who suffered a serious brain injury in the car accident that took the life of Lynn’s sister, Tabitha, 19 years ago, is part of this program.)

Last year, when Lynn completed his bachelor’s degree at age 49, he talked to his players about not being defined only by football and using the free time built into the NFL offseason to pursue endeavors outside of the game. This year, he’s set another example. When the Chargers re-convene in Orange County in a few weeks, he plans to tell his players about some of his experiences in Tanzania. The energy he felt standing at the back of that classroom, watching the room full of new students singing proudly, is something he wants to bring back to California.

“I always try to take life experiences and use them in football terms,” Lynn says. “A lot of times, when you can help develop these young men into better men, they will also become better football players. It’s something we will talk about: Doing more with less, and having the right attitude. When you have the grit and toughness that I have seen here in Tanzania, and you put positivity behind that, you can do whatever you want to do.”


Thanks for joining me this week, while Albert Breer is on vacation. Given that it’s mid-July, Kawhi Leonard does not play in the NFL and many of you spent yesterday watching the World Cup final (more on that below!), I have a little bit of a smorgasbord for you in today’s column. First, the storylines that haven’t been resolved as the offseason nears its close.

FOUR UNRESOLVED OFFSEASON STORIES

1. What will the Texans do with Jadeveon Clowney? A week from today, at 4 p.m. ET, is the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign long-term deals with their clubs. Falcons’ Grady Jarrett and 49ers' Robbie Gould are the two other tagged players who haven’t signed extensions—but let’s focus on Clowney, whose situation is the most intriguing not only because he was the No. 1 overall draft pick five years ago, but also because the Texans fired their GM five months into the offseason.

My guess? The Texans will not sign Clowney to a long-term contract before the deadline. His injury history is one consideration—he had microfracture surgery on his right knee as a rookie, and needed an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee after the 2018 season—though he’s only missed a total of three games the past three seasons. The bigger issue, in my view, is they may not feel Clowney’s production warrants his being paid as a top-tier pass rusher. Clowney is also a very good run defender, but you pay an edge rusher top-shelf money for his ability to get to the QB. If he’s looking for a deal like the one DeMarcus Lawrence got from Dallas (five years, $150 million, with $65 million guaranteed), the Texans may not be willing to pay that. The front-office changes make the situation tricky to read, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Clowney plays for the Texans on the tag this year.

2. What is Tyreek Hill’s status? Now that NFL investigators have met with Hill, it makes sense to expect that a decision will be handed down before the Chiefs report for training camp on July 26. The audio recording released publicly by KCTV5 (the validity of which Hill has confirmed), in which Hill tells his fiancée, Crystal Espinal, “you need to be terrified of me too, b----,”meets a minimum threshold for the league to suspend Hill under the personal conduct policy, which lists “actual or threatened physical violence” among its prohibited behaviors.

But in determining the length of the suspension, the NFL faces several challenges. One is sorting through information that the Johnson County district attorney found to be inconclusive, when he stated that he believed a crime was committed against Hill’s three-year-old son, who was removed from his parents’ care amid an abuse investigation, but the DA could not prove who did it. Another challenge is determining the veracity of statements and texts from Hill and Espinal, given that she suggested on the same recording that she had covered for Hill with the police and child protective services.

3. Will the NFL regret the PI rule change? The celebratory mood in Arizona after Sean Payton and Roger Goodell worked together to secure the votes needed to make pass interference reviewable has long since abated. What’s followed in the months since has been confusion, and some regret, about the impact of opening up Pandora’s box. When Al Riveron and other members of the league office visited team facilities during OTAs, they showed a reel of plays that reinforced the narrow margin that very often exists between calls and no-calls, and how making these calls reviewable may in fact have no effect on net outrage. The competition committee last month voted unanimously to recommend the rule change approved in March, but that does not mean the muddied waters have cleared. One of the biggest problems I see is the onus this rule change places on replay officials in some of the most critical game situations to apply consistently the standard of “clear and obvious.” It’s possible the rule change will prove to be the safeguard that prevents another egregious mistake like the infamous NFC Championship non-call. But the Arizona kumbaya may well have been premature.

4. Will a new CBA be in place before the 2019 season? Significant news from ESPN last week that the NFL and NFLPA will work toward securing a new collective bargaining agreement before the 2019 season begins. The current CBA expires after the 2020 season, and the sides have met just a handful of times thus far, so this is would be a faster timeline than many expected. In every CBA negotiation, there’s a discussion of all the things that players should push for, like getting rid of Goodell’s absolute disciplinary power or the franchise tag. But there’s a cost at the negotiating table if you choose to fight for things that only affect a handful of players as opposed to something like the revenue split, which affects everyone.

The upcoming negotiating sessions later this month will be a critical litmus test for if this deal really can get done this summer, and how far the sides are apart on critical issues. So far, the meetings between the two sides have been spent on identifying the main issues, rather than working on solving them. One leverage point for the players toward getting a deal done is that the league’s TV contracts are due to expire in 2021 and ’22, and it’s much harder to negotiate those without a CBA in place, not to mention they’ll be more difficult this time around with new streaming partners like Amazon and YouTube having entered the picture.


Courtesy of NFL UK

WHAT’S NEXT IN LONDON?

The NFL keeps taking new steps forward in London. Now, what does it all mean?

This fall, the NFL will begin an initiative in London called the NFL Academy. A class of 80 male athletes aged 16 to 18 will take classes at Barnet and Southgate College while spending 10-12 hours a week learning how to play football and a few hours in character development classes. Some 1,500 athletes applied, about half from London, half from the rest of the U.K. and a handful from a few other countries in the EU. Last Tuesday, the final stage of trials christened the NFL surface at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, where the NFL will play two games a year as part of a 10-year partnership with Tottenham that many thought was a harbinger for the league putting a team in London.

The NFL has worked for more than a decade to grow a fan base in the U.K. The Academy is another step, creating a pathway that could potentially send more talented U.K. athletes to play football in the NCAA, or even the NFL. Toward this end, they secured three young NFL stars as ambassadors. JuJu Smith-Schuster was in London for the final round of the trials, and Odell Beckham Jr. came for a previous round, cheering on the applicants for nearly three hours as they competed in combine events like the 40-yard dash. They plan to bring Patrick Mahomes over to visit the academy during the academic year. “We could end up having five QBs in this class,” NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood says, “and how cool would it be to have Patrick Mahomes giving you tips?”

They certainly have lofty goals for this initiative. They hope to grow the academy to 150 players in a second year and make it co-ed in year three. But like all of the NFL’s overseas initiatives, the inevitable question is: Is the league closer to putting a team in London?

“I don’t think doing this today makes a franchise more likely, but if there was to be a franchise in the future, we’d point to today and say this was an important step,” Kirkwood said from the Tottenham Stadium last week. “We have moved ahead substantially, but it doesn’t mean we get a franchise. Ultimately, that comes down to an owner deciding he wants to move. It could be something that takes a long time, or never happens. I don’t think success or failure is based on that. All we are doing is building the sport to the level of popularity that the league has a decision it can make it in the future, which maybe five years ago they never had.”

The NFL’s upward trajectory in London is easy to track: 31 of 32 teams have now played in London; they’ve tried nearly all iterations of the schedule, including three games on back-to-back weeks; they’ll play games this fall in a stadium fully customized for the NFL; they’re beginning a grass-roots player development program in the U.K., and so on. So, what does it mean?

“I don’t think all that combined means a franchise has to happen,” Kirkwood says. “But it certainly makes it a more attractive proposition if it were to happen.”


THE ITALIAN FOOTBALL PLAYER

Two years ago, in the fall of 2017, we did a project at The MMQB called Football In America. Our staff visited eight cities across the country, watching football at all levels, from youth up through the NFL. In Philadelphia, one of our stops was a city park to watch a women’s tackle football team, the Philadelphia Phantomz, practice. One of the players we met on that chilly Saturday morning was a tight end/linebacker named Nausicaa Dell’Orto. She was from Italy, and she was working as an intern at NFL Films. She also told us that she’d started a women’s tackle football team, six years earlier, in her native Milan. I wanted to share her story, as she is one of the many women around the NFL who have worked hard to carve out roles in football that did not previously exist.

A year later, Dell’Orto sent me an email. She’d been inspired, she said, to tell her own stories about football. So, she pitched two documentaries to NFL Films. One was “Cooking with Giorgio Tavecchio,” the NFL kicker who is also a Milan native. The second was the story of how she started an Italian female football movement, “Football in Italy.” She brought a crew to film in Milan and Bologna, and she was told it was NFL Films’ first time in Italy.

Dell’Orto began as a cheerleader for Milan’s best-known American football team, the Seamen, who were once owned by fashion designer Giorgio Armani. But, watching the intensity of the sport, she decided she’d rather be playing it than cheering others on. The Milan men’s club, though, didn’t believe that women could play their sport, and they refused to support the women with facilities or equipment. So, the women trained on potato fields. For uniforms, they used a box of orange Miami Hurricanes practice jerseys that one of Milan’s junior football coaches had brought back to Italy with him after visiting summer practices at The U in the late 1980s.

Their all-female, Italian tackle football team started with five players. Now, Dell’Orto says, there are 300 women who play on 15 clubs across Italy. They also have a national team. She was playing for that national team at the Women’s World Football Games in January 2017 in Orlando, where Sam Rapoport, the NFL’s director of football development, had organized the NFL’s first Women’s Careers in Football Forum. Dell’Orto attended, and as a result applied and was selected for the NFL Films internship that brought her to the Philadelphia area for the 2017 season.

Dell’Orto’s hours at NFL Films were capped at 40 per week, but she enjoyed the job so much, she’d often clock out and go back upstairs and keep working. Wanting to see more of the U.S., one week she paid for a flight to Los Angeles and asked to work a Chargers game. She cooked ragu for the crews she worked with, and she would do anything on gamedays, running memory cards for the cameramen or taking a lens to the bathroom to warm it up one frigid Sunday. Interns rarely get an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, but when Super Bowl LII came around, two cameramen requested her. They told her she was the only runner who actually runs the cards, even wearing her football cleats to games to help her do so. She worked Super Bowl LIII, too.

Courtesy of Nausicaa Dell’Orto

In 2018, she returned to the NFL’s Women’s Careers in Football Forum, where her roommate was Lori Locust, the new assistant defensive line coach on Bruce Arians’s Buccaneers staff. Earlier this year, Dell’Orto spent a few months working in Tampa, where she played for the Tampa Bay Inferno in the Women’s Football Alliance. Locust performed the opening coin toss for their April game against the Orlando Anarchy, and on the sideline coached Dell’Orto up on a pass rush move called the stab and squeeze. Dell’Orto got a sack on the first play she tried it.

She’s now a freelance producer for NFL Films, and both of her documentaries aired as part of the Emmy-nominated NFL Films Presents feature show. Her next goal is to bring an International Series game to Italy. She even has a venue picked out: the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, home of AC Milan, which seats more than 80,000.

“I heard my dream chuckled at so many times: What do you think you’re doing, playing football?” Dell’Orto says. “But nothing has given me confidence like football has. I believe it’s important for little girls out there to know there’s room for them, too.”


S/O TO… PLAYERS ADVOCATING FOR GUN SAFETY

The Raiders had just reported to training camp in Napa last summer, when running back DeAndre Washington received a phone call that made his body go numb. His sister, Taiesha Watkins, had been killed in a shooting at a strip mall in New Orleans, where she was spending a girls’ weekend. Two men fired shots into a crowd in what police deemed a gang-related shooting. Watkins, 27 and a mother to a 5-year-old daughter, was struck as a bystander.

“She was a bright light,” Washington says. “I want to do everything I can to remember her legacy.”

So when Washington held his free youth football camp for about 300 kids last weekend in their hometown of Missouri City, Texas, he gave every camper an orange bandana reading, “We can end gun violence.” The volunteers also wore orange T-shirts, the color representing gun violence prevention. Next weekend, Titans tight end Delanie Walker will bring those same bandanas to the football camp he will host in his hometown of Pomona, Calif. Both players are part of a newly formed athletic council for Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization.

During the time of year when many NFL players host youth camps, these players saw a chance to make gun violence prevention part of their community outreach. “The biggest thing is to spread awareness, especially at an early age,” Washington says. “A lot of times, violence with a gun is part of a situation that could have been easily avoided.”

Walker says he often witnessed drive-by shootings growing up and has had multiple friends who were victims of gun violence, including a friend he says was shot and killed two years ago while stopped in his car at a red light. He owns a gun, which is licensed and kept locked up at home in a safe. Volunteers from Moms Demand Action, the grassroots arm of Everytown, will set up a table at Walker's camp to talk with parents about safe gun storage and ways to prevent violence in their communities. Walker also plans to gather a group of the older campers after they finish the on-field football activities to talk about gun safety.

“It’s something I wanted to be a part of, because growing up in this city I have seen gun violence firsthand,” Walker says. “It should be talked about more. We have a lot of kids in the younger generation that listen to us, and follow us. If they see us preaching about gun safety, hopefully it can help.”


TEN TAKEAWAYS

1. Kendrick Norton, the Dolphins defensive tackle who lost his left arm in a car accident on July 4, was upgraded from critical to stable condition on Friday, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The updates from his agent, Malki Kawa, indicate Norton is in good spirits despite the trauma he’s experienced.

2. A few hours before the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, Julie Ertz’s husband, Zach, tweeted about his excitement for the match.

Zach was in France for six of the USWNT’s seven matches, cheering the ruthless defensive midfielder on her way to a second World Cup title. Other than his social media posts, though, the Eagles tight end kept a pretty low profile, declining interview requests while he was in France because he did not want to take any of the focus off of Julie’s accomplishments. After the United States’ win, former Eagles WR Torrey Smith posted congratulations to Julie, “the best athlete in the house,” which is hard to argue. In the opinion of MMQB executive editor Mark Mravic, a noted soccer aficionado, Julie was “the U.S.’s most important player" in this World Cup.

3. The NFL’s statement announcing that Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott would not be suspended for his altercation with a security guard in Las Vegas in May included this paragraph: “Mr. Elliott acknowledged that he demonstrated poor judgment and committed to make better choices in the future. He volunteered to take advantage of the resources available to help him continue to grow personally.” Since the NFL did not find him in violation of the personal conduct policy, it cannot compel him to do so; even if it had, the policy mentions only that appropriate follow-up education, counseling, or treatment programs will be offered to the person in violation. And, Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones has already said the Vegas incident would not affect Elliott’s contract negotiations. Does Elliott have someone who will hold him accountable to following through on this?

4. Nike is a multi-billion dollar company that makes what it believes to be shrewd business decisions. That said, it’s encouraging that Nike’s alignment with Colin Kaepernick, and its decision to pull a sneaker featuring the Betsy Ross flag after he expressed concerns that the symbol is offensive (as first reported by the Wall Street Journal), have been good for business. The NFL, of course, made a very different business decision.

5. Since Tedy Bruschi experienced his first stroke during his NFL playing career, in 2005, he’s worked to raise funds and awareness for stroke research and recognition. The statement that his Tedy’s Team foundation released on Friday, announcing that Bruschi had experienced another stroke and was recovering well, included a description of the warning signs that led him to go to the hospital immediately: arm weakness, face drooping and speech difficulties.

6. If you haven’t seen this video explaining Jared Lorenzen’s hidden role in the famous David Tyree helmet catch play, give it a watch. The former Kentucky and Giants QB, who died at age 38 on Wednesday after battling several health issues, played an important role on the Giants’ special Super Bowl XLII team and was fondly remembered by his teammates.

7. Credit to The MMQB’s Jonathan Jones for, four months ago, delivering this well-reported exploration into the topic everyone is talking about now: Why is free agency so much more fun in the NBA than the NFL? As a person who wonders daily why everyone else is having so much more fun than I am, this read was right in my wheelhouse.

8. One more note on the NFL Academy in London: How did they secure Beckham and Smith-Schuster as ambassadors? “For both of them,” Kirkwood says, “we had to go through their moms.” It’s a new initiative, and they didn’t know if the players would want to put their names on it. So the NFL UK team spent about 45 minutes on the phone with each mom, and pitched the concept. Luckily for the NFL, both moms were on board. While in London, Smith-Schuster snapped a picture of Big Ben to send to his QB and declared that fish and chips are “not good.” His biggest surprise was how often he was recognized. “In the States, people come up to me and show some love,” he said last week. “But here, when I walk down the streets of the U.K. and they come up to me … that is really shocking to me. It happened four, five, six times the first day here.”

9. And one more note from Delanie Walker: The tight end said he doesn’t know if he’ll begin training camp on the PUP list, less than a year removed from the serious ankle injury that ended his 2018 season. “I’ll leave that up to the coaches,” he said. After leaving last year’s season opener with an injury that required an air cast, Walker returned to the field during the Titans' OTAs and felt good about his progress. “Just stepping on the field, running routes and doing drills, that was the biggest [hurdle],” he said. “I had only been running for two weeks, and being able to run routes against guys, and beating them.” Walker sat out the June mini-camp and it sounds like he’s expecting the team to ease him into training camp—whether that means starting on the PUP list or not. “We have great coaches and training staff,” he said. “They’re probably not going to let me hit the ground running like I want to, but I look forward to getting into my groove.”

10. If you’re not listening to Conor Orr’s Bad Football Movies podcast yet, now is the time to correct this grave error. Just read Orr’s teaser for the latest episode, recorded with our friends from M(ost) V(aluable) P(odcast), Charlotte Wilder and Jessica Smetana. “Does the story of Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, the lilliputian Notre Dame walk-on who logged a sack in his only on-field appearance, define an era of grit and determination?” Orr writes. “Or, is it simply the bedrock of yet another poorly cloaked American hustle?” Obviously, you should spend an hour enjoying this superiORR wit from your host and his guests, while also reliving a different cinematic classic of the gridiron genre each week (or, as is the case for me with almost every movie, watching the classic for the very first time). You can thank me later.


SIX FROM THE SIDELINES

1. The great irony of the criticism directed toward the way the USWNT handled its business during the 2019 World Cup is that this team’s defiance should be the trait for which it is most celebrated. Each of the United States’ four World Cup champions (all women's teams, of course) has its own legacy, and the 2019 team's legacy is its confident and unapologetic rejection of the America’s sweetheart stereotype. The players sued U.S. Soccer for equal pay three months before leaving for France, knowing full well that there were plenty of people who would frown upon this so-called distraction. They criticized FIFA for its unfair treatment of the women’s game up through the World Cup final, drawing ire from those who hadn’t been listening all those other times they spoke up. They had zero qualms about calling the over-the-top criticism of their goal-scoring and goal-celebrating exactly what it is: Sexism. The legacy of the 2019 World Cup champions is that they were dominant, and they demanded to be treated as such.

“We are constantly having to carve out these different parts,” Megan Rapinoe said in an interview two months before the World Cup. “First, it is carving out we are athletes, period, and we can be tenacious. And then it’s like, O.K., we are more than athletes, maybe we are role models, and we can do a little bit more. We as a society have such a narrow view of women in general and what we can do, so it's like every step we take outside of that is met with a little pushback; like, Uhhhhh, should you really be doing that? Which can be hard and frustrating at times. You can't focus on what's being said, or what's happening on the outskirts. You just need to keep pushing forward and bringing our full selves to the spectrum, because obviously we are much more than what society allows us to be, or what society says we can be. I don't really pay attention to any of that, or I try not to. I just want to continue carve out more space, not only for myself but obviously for everyone else and for the next generation to come.”

2. Peter King has the copyright on Beernerdness, but I’m going to appropriate it for one week to say: Budweiser. A major brand throwing its support behind the National Women’s Soccer League is a key step toward converting the phenomenon of the USWNT into sustained fan support of the professional club teams for which the best players in the world compete regularly. While I’m emptying out my Rapinoe notebook, here she is on what the landscape for women’s sports could look like with consistent backing from the lower levels of the game all the way up to the professional ranks: “It looks like the MLS and the NBA. It looks like all the other sports leagues that get tons of funding. It looks awesome. The interest for women's sports is there. I see it every day. We play in these stadiums that are sold out, with thousands of fans, and we get all this sponsorship money... I see how far the MLS has come, and with 20 years, and with the same kind of funding, why wouldn't we be the same?”

3. Big month for former SI senior writers turned NBA team employees. First, Luke Winn, director of prospect strategy for the Raptors, wins a ring in his second year on the job. Now Lee Jenkins, executive director of research & identity for the Clippers, is part of the team that pulled off the biggest coup of the NBA offseason. I’m ready to declare cause and effect.

4. This is not a shot at Drake, because Lord knows he doesn’t need any more piling on. But can someone explain to me why, as ESPN reported, Drake’s apparently offering Kawhi Leonard a role with his OVO Sound record label would have played any role in Leonard’s decision? Without knowing Leonard at all, this does not seem to be something about which he would care in the least.

5. If you are like me, and enjoyed the Met Gala costumes this year all the while being entirely unconfident in your ability to use “camp” in a sentence, I recommend visiting the Met’s Camp exhibit before it closes in September. You’ll learn the origins of the camp aesthetic, understand why it’s having a moment now and gain a much greater appreciation for the Met Gala look Odell Beckham, Jr., pulled off.

6. For all you Bachelorette fans, I was really hoping to deliver some insight into Tyler C.’s extremely short-lived crack at the NFL, but it appears his cup of coffee was more like the quick shot of espresso you drop a euro for at the counter and drink standing up. This Marie Claire article with the headline, “Tyler Cameron’s Baltimore Ravens Football Career Was Epic But Short-Lived” is quite the head-scratcher. There is a line in here stating, “He was reportedly drafted, but had to pull out.” I do not know how it is possible to be reportedly drafted, but regardless, a quick Google search can confidently verify that he was not drafted. Best as I can tell, Cameron was invited to the Ravens’ rookie mini-camp as a tryout player:

It didn't pan out. Now… will it pan out with Hannah Brown?


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The NFL will hold its supplemental draft on July 10. Two players who may be selected are Washington State safety Jalen Thompson, who learned in late June that he lost his final year of college eligibility due to an NCAA rules violation, and West Virginia WR Marcus Simms, who held a Pro Day workout last week in front of half of the NFL’s teams, per draftanalyst.com. Next up is the July 15 contract deadline for franchise tagged players. I’m passing the baton to Bob Klemko for next week’s MMQB, then Albert Breer will be back in time for training camps. And don’t forget to wish a very happy birthday tomorrow (Tuesday) to The MMQB’s Kalyn Kahler, who is, far and away, the worst driver on staff but has many other admirable qualities.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.